It’s the latest trend in sustainability, not to mention great for saving a buck or two. Car sharing has only really started catching on in the last couple years, but it’s sure taking the world by storm. If you haven’t heard about it: companies provide a fleet of vehicles to customers as short-term rentals, for example by the minute or hour. Not only does the arrangement reduce carbon gas emissions by letting people drive only when they need to (and also by offering a selection of electric and fuel-efficient vehicles), but it also helps customers save on the high costs of gas and car maintenance.
Now traditional car rental companies (Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, Uhaul) and manufacturers (BMW, VW) are meeting the demand by even creating their own car sharing services. There’s also ride sharing programs now, that connect passengers with drivers of private vehicles using mobile apps. It’s interesting to watch how the transportation landscape is changing as a result of all this. In cities like New York and Chicago, taxis are in direct competition with ride sharing programs, and some taxi drivers are even switching over to such apps.
If you’re a total newbie to car sharing/ride sharing, here’s an introduction to the top programs offered in North America:
With 810,000 members throughout North America and Europe (as of July 2013), Zipcar is by far the world’s leading carsharing network. Last year, Zipcar was even purchased by Avis Budget Group for a staggering $500 million US.
Founded in 2000 by a couple of Cambridge, Massachusetts residents, this company really takes the credit for pioneering the car sharing market – but it’s seen a steady wave of competition in recent years. Nevertheless, Zipcar stays popular for being tried, tested and true.
Car2Go is a subsidiary of Daimler AG launched in Germany a few years ago. It’s now available across Europe and in North American cities like Vancouver, San Diego, Toronto, Calgary and Seattle. Customers are charged by the minute, but there are also hourly and daily rates. As of February 2014, the program is available in eight countries and 25 cities worldwide with 600,000 customers. The company is now working on its expansion into suburban areas.
Uber is a mobile app that connects passengers with vehicles for hire. Started in San Francisco in 2009, the venture-funded startup is now aggressively expandingin Asia. Uber’s not withoutcontroversies, though. A lot of cities say that the programtakes business away from the taxi industry.
We’ve got to thank Montreal for starting the car sharing movement in North American with Communauto. It’s the oldest carsharing service on the continent operating in four Quebec cities: Montreal, Quebec City, Gatineau and Sherbrooke with partnerships in Ottawa and Halifax. Customers sign up for a membership subscription, allowing them to reserve a vehicle for anywhere from half an hour for an annual fee. As of March 2013, the company has almost 30,000 users and around 1,300 vehicles.
Launched by car rental giant Hertz, this global car sharing service is available in major U.S. cities like San Francisco, Washington DC and Miami, and also in participation with Lowe’s Home Improvement locations. There’s no annual fee for Hertz 24/7 and the service bills at hourly and daily rates with fuel and insurance coverage included. There’s also a one-way service offered in 350 locations across America that allows customers to drop the car off at a different location from where they got it.